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A Royal Air Force air traffic controller has entered a plea of not guilty to charges connected with the fatal crash of two U.S. Air Force jets in the Scottish Highlands nearly two years ago.

The court-martial of Flight Lt. Malcolm Williams, 47, began Monday at the Royal Navy base near Glasgow, Scotland, in front of seven senior RAF officers.

Williams, who had been providing radar information from his post at RAF Leuchars in Scotland, is charged with telling Lt. Col. Kenneth Hyvonen, 40, to descend to 4,000 feet when the safe minimum altitude was 6,500 feet, according to published reports Tuesday in the United Kingdom, including the East Anglian Daily Times.

Hyvonen’s F-15C jet later crashed into a mountain at 4,000 feet. The jet flown by Capt. Kirk Jones, 27, also crashed. Both pilots from the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, England, were killed in the March 26, 2001, crash.

The Herald, a national Scottish daily newspaper from Glasgow, reported Tuesday that Williams had just returned to work on the day of the crash after two weeks of compassionate leave following the death of his father.

Williams is believed to be the first military controller in the United Kingdom to face a court-martial in connection with a crash. If found guilty, he could be jailed, reduced in rank, discharged or fined.

The court-martial is expected to take several days.


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